We are not superheroes

A recent counter-protest resulted in the physical assault of a group of Marine reservists on leave in Philadelphia. Members of ANTIFA surrounded, slurred, and assaulted the Marines callings them “white supremacists.” When one of the Marines said he was of Mexican heritage, the chants changed to “wetback” and “spic.”

As reported in a recent article in USMC Life, self-identified ANTIFA members Thomas Massey and Tom Keenan face numerous charges including felony assault, felony conspiracy, and ethnic intimidation for attacking the Marines this past November.

Most intriguing to me as I read the article was the consistency of shibboleths between the so-called alt-right and ctrl-left. The demand “Are you proud?” and “Are you Proud-Boys?”–wholly unintelligible to the young Marines–produced a confused response that did not satisfy the mob. Not hearing a clear binary “No,” the assailants asserted their bias and assumed the worst of their fellow men. That’s when a reality far too many people of color, gay men, and lesbians know all-too-well; the Marines, simply out sightseeing, became targets for violence.

As an old school leftist, I have long taken a dim view of authoritarianism and violence. John Lennon had some great words that sum up my worldview in the song Revolution

You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out

Having earned my activist status in the mid-to-late-1980’s in the war on HIV/AIDS, I consider construction to be one of the criteria of good activism; another criterion is engaging the public for the sake of agreement and debate in order to clarify positions, identify vulnerable populations that may be harmed by the desired change, and procure fresh perspectives (because nobody knows everything.) When fighting for a cause, make sure you’re fighting for something, not against something and definitely not against someone.

Of late, however, the desire to fight bad ideas by fighting those who espouse them–be they on the left or the right–has become the trend. “Punch a Nazi” is a call to violence just as much as “Smear the queer.” Both advocate inflicting greater suffering in the world; neither changes the essence of the victim. Though one is an ideological position and the other a biological imposition, both are shaped by environmental factors and stimuli over the course of a lifespan. It’s incredibly difficult to beat a change into someone; it’s also incredibly unethical.

The pendulum of American politics swings between the poles of left and right freely and with something akin to regularity. What is practiced today for the sake of “righteousness” by one side will be adopted and redeployed by the other in 10 to 20 years. Dog shit on a stick–the old childish cheat in impromptu games of tag–doesn’t win the game as much as provide an example for others; pretty soon, everyone’s running around with shit on a stick and it’s probably going to get on someone’s face….

And let me be clear–this is the right’s doing as much as the neo-left’s. The current attitudes in left-wing thought–authoritarian, anti-scientific, and stalled in social liberalism in an age of economic progressivism–were gleaned by its adherents as they sucked on sippie cups of apple juice in the back of mom’s Aerostar as she nodded her bleach-blonde head to every paranoid delusion Rush Limbaugh touted. The promotion of obscure and absurdist academic papers as somehow nefarious and influential promoted these ideas and pushed them into the public dialog. Little ears listened and 12 years later hit a rebellious phase….

When a superhero like Captain America punches a Nazi, it’s not a manual for behavior in the objective sense. Rather, these images are archetypal and the Nazi that Captain America knocks-out is the inner Nazi, the inner authoritarian, the personification of the tyrant–domineering father / mother / parent / teacher–the aspect of the self that’s most apt to attempt to seize control of others. It is the literary and symbolic triumph of the superego over the id, not a literal thing.

We are not superheroes anymore than we are cognitive behavioral therapy or music or interpretive dance–these are things we do or watch or otherwise engage in for the purpose of integration. We consume popular media not because we’re taking pointers to fight crime but to fight the war within, the quell the tempest of frustration and refute the temptation of violence.

And so this brings me full-circle to the assault on the Marines. When bias couldn’t stand up to truth, the ANTIFA goons devolved and opted to use violence and ethnic slurs to harm and humiliate their victims–the same tactics used by the Ku Klux Klan during the days of Jim Crow. But then ANTIFA defines itself by what it opposes–without fascists, without white supremacists–it ceases to be and its adherents are left with mere hate and nothing to say but “wetback” and “spic” as they attack the innocent.

My only hope is that those on the right understand that the ball is truly in their court now. The left their children and grandchildren will face or become depends on their response now. The only thing that can save us is for the other side to recognize the foul when they see it and not pick up the dog shit on a stick.

Shriek into the Void...

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